Thursday, October 22, 2015


Are you familiar with Giphy? I heard an interview with the CEO this week on NPR that was pretty lame. The CEO tried to be funny by just sounded stupid. On the other hand, listening to his explanation of what Giphy does gave me an idea. I happened to be talking about interpersonal communication in my content marketing course and we were joking around about the apps “Yo”, “Bro”, and “Beer.” 

All these apps do is send an automated text with that keyword to someone just to let you know you are thinking of them.  You don’t really have anything to say, so a quick “Yo” is all you need.  But you don’t feel lame about not adding text because the app doesn’t do that.  It just sends the “Yo”. 

We were joking around about it in class because this is a pretty simple form of human communication and does serve an occasional need, it isn’t something that my students thought would happen very often.  Why have an app just for that.  We brainstormed for a while for another word that might be more explicit and more common.  Perhaps “Food” as a way to say “hey, let’s go get some coffee/lunch/dinner/cocktails . . . .” or whatever.

On the other hand, the content at Giphy might be a great way to achieve the same thing but with a lot more flexibility.

Giphy, as you might have guessed, is a repository of GIFs that users can add to a text message, a social media post, or whatever else.  One possible use for this is as a GIF-emoji version of “Yo”.  If you are thinking about someone, you don’t “Yo” them or “Beer” them.  But you also don’t have to think of something interesting to say. You just pick a GIF that conveys whatever you are feeling or just something funny and send it over.  No accompanying words required. It has a similar risk-reducing value to it but with the ability to send all different kinds of messages.  And people seem to love sharing GIFs.

So now to bring it over to content marketing.  What if McDonalds created a GIF, available for free download at Giphy, that conveyed the sentiment of “let’s go get something to eat.”  If it were a clear promotion of McDonalds food, it would not be very popular, wouldn’t be a good investment for McDonalds, and wouldn’t transform Giphy into a profitable company. 

But that is also not what content marketing is about.  To turn this into a great content marketing platform, McDonalds would have to bring in some creative talent and design some engaging and brand-independent GIFs that convey the sentiment and only have subtle branding for McDonalds.

Think about the Kraft Food & Family magazine.  It has good recipes for meals that happen to involve cheese, but for which you could just as easily use Cabot as Kraft brand cheese. Or Marriot’s new travel magazine that has great things to do in a city, no matter what hotel you are staying at.  But these content marketing platforms do support the marketer’s brand identity by establishing their credentials as an expert in food, travel, or whatever.

Any marketer could take the same approach with Giphy. Create engaging GIFs with a very subtle branding message in the background.  Users will download them and share them by the boatload.  Everyone gets the subtle brand message, and without the concern from ad blockers or inattention blindness.